Which backup goalies could soon become relevant?
Have you ever been in a keeper or one-year league with a championship within your grasp only to have your season ruined by injuries? This can be a very frustrating turn of events especially when you have the best team on paper. If the player you lose to injury is a goalie you could be in a lot of trouble. Many league configurations offer two starting positions per night which forces teams to own three or four goaltenders. Losing an ace goalie can leave you scrambling for scraps.
Goaltending is a very tough position to evaluate. A goalie's organizational rank is often more important than his level of talent. A veteran "good guy" backup can keep his spot in the league for years while many more talented netminders are not able to rise to the NHL. And that backup can suddenly hold a ton of value if his team's starter goes down with a major injury. The goaltending landscape changes every day and the effects on the fantasy hockey world are significant.
In leagues that have a salary cap using player salaries or cap hits, the problem of building your team and preparing for a disaster is much more complicated. If there are bench positions containing players that you only use in the event of an injury, you are probably better-served using players with a low cost to keep as much cap space as possible for those who will play the bulk of the games for your fantasy squad.
Types of leagues where it may be wise to stash away an extra goalie who can pay dividends later include:
- Leagues with multiple active goalie positions
- Shallow leagues with extra bench positions
- Deep leagues
- Weekly lineups
By now, the obvious names such as Jacob Markstrom ($1.2 million) and Steve Mason ($1.5 million) are probably gone. That does not mean that there are not some good options still there on the wire. They may not be valuable today but could come in handy later if their team situation changes. Guys who are behind injury-prone starters, have unstable number-one goalie situations and play behind strong teams make good candidates. When the doomsday scenario occurs it is much better to have the emergency replacement in-house than to be left scrambling for a trade or a bad waiver-wire pickup. At the very least, the goalies mentioned here should be watched this year.
Josh Harding (Minnesota - $1,900,000)
Despite his own personal health struggles dating back to last year, Harding remains a very talented goaltender who has a track record of putting up good numbers in the NHL in a backup role. His career .916 save percentage and 2.60 GAA are very respectable totals.
His team's starting goaltender, Niklas Backstrom, has a history of getting hurt including a current knee injury. If the injury bug strikes in a more significant way Harding could get a pretty heavy workload down the stretch behind a good Wild club.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Colorado - $1,500,000)
Like Harding, Giguere also sits behind a starter who gets injured often. Semyon Varlamov will play the majority of games when healthy but has yet to prove himself as a workhorse number-one goaltender. If he goes down then Giguere could become a very viable option behind the seemingly-improved Colorado Avalanche.
Another interesting story in Colorado is the reunion between Giguere and goalie coach Francois Allaire. The duo enjoyed a lot of success in Anaheim including a Stanley Cup victory and another deep playoff run. This can only help Giguere's chances of earning the trust of his coaches should the Avs find themselves without their top goaltender.
Joey MacDonald (Calgary - $925,000)
The majority of fans are down on the Calgary Flames these days. They are in a rebuilding phase and despite a strong start they are not expected to finish high in the standings. This could be to your advantage as MacDonald could be on his way to a respectable fantasy season.
At this time MacDonald's only competition in Calgary is a pair of inexperienced young goalies - Karri Ramo and Reto Berra. It is possible that MacDonald spends the year in a backup role but it is also possible that he sees the bulk of the action. Despite the Flames' bleak outlook the NHL's parity will allow the Flames to pick up some wins along the way. MacDonald could be a real surprise at a cheap price.
Jhonas Enroth (Buffalo - $1,250,000)
Enroth has been a solid backup for the Buffalo Sabres in his young NHL career. His career 2.71 GAA and .914 save percentage are good quality for the starts that he does get behind long-time workhorse Ryan Miller. This year both Sabres' goaltenders have posted solid numbers despite a terrible team record.
Enroth's value could increase tremendously if Miller, a pending unrestricted free agent, is traded sometime this year. Enroth would be the leading candidate to receive the bulk of the remaining starts. Like Calgary, Buffalo will still be able to get a decent amount of wins despite a probable low ranking in the standings. This could make Enroth a decent option down the stretch.
Dan Ellis (Dallas - $900,000)
We are only a few games into the 2013-14 campaign and we already have a Kari Lehtonen injury. As frustrating as it can be for Lehtonen owners, this presents a good opportunity for his backup who happens to be Ellis. If the injury trend continues Ellis could see a lot of action on a Dallas team that could challenge for a playoff spot in the new Central division.
Previously in Capped: